Heart of Midlothian still have the "drive" to break the 70-point mark for the first time in 18 years as Steven Naismith rubbished suggestions their foot would be off the gas once they have clinched third spot. 

The Jam Tarts boss, 37, was speaking to the press ahead of Hearts' Scottish Premiership clash against Kilmarnock on Saturday.

Naismith's side are 11 points clear of Killie, with only five games remaining, and can wrap up the 'best of the rest' position should they seal three points at Rugby Park. 

That would secure European group stage football, but even if Hearts can achieve that objective, Naismith has insisted the standards won't drop because maintaining their impressive form would help bring a positive outlook into next season. 

“I wouldn’t say it makes a big difference because I think the drive within us is always going to be to get better,” said Naismith.

“Getting third confirmed isn’t automatically going to make us change everything we’re doing. It might give us a bit scope to see where boys’ injuries are.

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“But what it does is bring a really nice enjoyment to the last month of the season.

“I’ve been in football a long time and you don’t often get that period of time where it’s a really relaxed environment. I think that’s probably the biggest thing that would change, but there’s still a drive here.

“I think there’s a good opportunity to get more than 70 points and I think that’s realistic to push on and try and do that.”

Hearts have already secured Yan Dhanda from Ross County, Motherwell's Blair Spittal, and James Penrice of Livingston on pre-contracts for next season. 

It's a stark contrast from last summer, when Kenneth Vargas joined from Herediano in Costa Rica, Japanese striker Kyosuke Tagawa arrived from FC Tokyo, and Aussie midfielder Calem Nieuwenhof was signed from Western Sydney Wanderers in his native Australia.

Although, Naismith insists the trio of SPFL-based signings doesn't completely signify that Hearts won't still look overseas for new additions during the summer. 

"No, it's not been a shift," the Hearts head coach stated. "I've mentioned a few players (Liam Boyce and Barrie McKay) who have been injured and we expect them to be back in and they complement the squad well.

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"But for us it's about signing the right player at the right time who we feel can come into the team and contribute. In some areas right away, in other areas there's maybe a bit of leeway like we did last summer with Calem (Nieuwenhof) and Kenneth (Vargas). We've probably used them more than we expected.

"It's finding the right player with the right characteristics that's going to complement this squad and driving the standards. That's always been the case.

"Throughout my playing career I've seen snap decisions made on signings and it's backfired. And I've seen what I think's the right way to do it and that's what we've tried to do."

Hearts and Aberdeen have both struggled with the demands of juggling European group-stage football with domestic matters over the past two seasons.

And Naismith understands the importance of preparing his squad for the upcoming season and plans to turn to the youth academy for additional support and reinforcements.

“There is a point that you need to look at the squad and make sure you have got enough depth but I’m probably going to rely a bit more on the youth side of it,” he said. “I think it’s really important for us as a club.

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“I think we’ve shown this season we’ve got young players who can contribute and it’s about giving them some time, but they’ve got to be ready.

“We’ll evaluate where we think the squad’s at. There are some who have probably not had as many – or any – minutes – but we feel next season they can come into the group.

“It’s about finding that balance. You do need to make sure you’ve got competition but if you have too big a squad it can bring its own problem in terms of keeping everybody happy.”